A fox hunting–focused community’s search for a missing energy company head leads to a surprising discovery and further mystery.
Shifting this series (Crazy Like a Fox, 2017, etc.) from mysteries with a fox-hunting background to celebrations of fox hunting that include a mystery, Brown begins her latest with a Cast of Characters that includes almost 30 humans; American foxhounds; horses; foxes: red; foxes: gray; birds; and pets; with an additional five pages of Some Useful Terms of fox hunting lingo. This litmus test will help readers decide in advance whether they’ll love or loathe the story, which shows members of the Jefferson Hunt unraveling the mystery of a guest who’s disappeared from their Christmas Day outing. Jane Arnold, the 70-something Master of Foxhounds for the Blue Ridge group, is surprised when her friend Ronnie, the club treasurer, mentions that he’s bringing Gregory Luckham on their latest hunt. Luckham has been a controversial figure as the head of Soliden, an energy firm building a pipeline that will be environmentally iffy and will also affect local property values—two big no-nos with most of the hunt crowd. The horse Luckham’s been riding shows up solo when it’s time to load up, but with snow-blind conditions, there’s no way to look for the rider. When the others regroup to search for him, they can’t believe what they find: no sign of Luckham but the murdered body of someone else. What follows is a mix of fox hunting and looking for Luckham, though the possibility that he’s alive becomes less likely with each passing hunt. The characters are developed through hunt members’ commentary on newer member Tootsie’s potential romance and through the bickering between animals less interested in mystery than their own cunning and sass. The biggest mystery may be the climax, which skims over the wrongdoer’s denial of a second crime in a wasted opportunity for a twist.
The mix of well-established characters from previous series entries combined with a focus on the pomp and circumstance of fox hunting may not win many new readers; this is aimed at those in the fox-hunting and adjacent horse-fancying worlds who can appreciate Brown’s eye for accurate details throughout.